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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chunks of Change, Kale Chips and Interview with author, Lindsay S. Nixon

It's still winter here in Ohio....winter's been going on for about 6 months now....or so it seems.  But, there is greening occuring in the lawn and change in the scruffy looking flower beds that tulip leaves pierce through and attempt to beautify.  I will try to be patient, but I am ready for the next season for sure.

Since I was feeling a little cranky this weekend about the cold dip in temps, I turned to the kitchen for sustenance and comfort and realized that I had absolutely NO compulsion to run for the dark chocolate or devour a huge bowl of butter-sodden popcorn.  Change is truly coming about.  Yeah!  No, I wanted some of Isa Chandra's yummy lentil veggie soup, and some flaxers (recipe here:  http://sunnyhawklane.blogspot.com/2011/02/usda-part-2-bullies-and-flaxers.html).

We measure change in quantifiable methods usually, whether it be numbers on a scale, pants size, test scores (or cholesterol figures), but I love it when you get a big 'chunk' of change and it smacks you up-side-the-head in a delightful, AH-HA!!!!  Now let me get this straight....I want KALE instead of CHOCOLATE?  Apparently so!

As the soup was cooking and flax-crackers low-temp baking, I whipped up some kale chips.  There are several great recipes out there on the web, but I was in the mood for some of Averie's chips.  (Averie's blog, Love Veggies and Yoga can be found here:  http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/).

These are very easy to whip up and the coating on the chips is very similar to what is used as the sauce in Rip Esselstyn's Mac Not Cheese.  You just coat the kale leaves, and bake on a cookie sheet.  I warn you though, don't plan on having any of these leftover.  Ain't gonna happen.  (Averie's recipe:  http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/2010/04/raw-vegan-kale-chips-making-our-own.html )


In a way, they kind of remind me of Doritos, except not really.  They are lighter and of course won't kill you.
Yum-city.

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Lindsay Nixon http://www.happyherbivore.com/) recently went on a 'blog-book tour', which I think is genius.  What a great way to get the word out about her new book and let "little people", like me, get a chance to ask her a few questions. It was an honor and priviledge to have been able to submit some interview questions to her.  She has also given me a recipe from her new cookbook:  The Happy Herbivore, which follows the interview.


Congratulations on your new book.  I am very excited to see recipes without the use of oils and other processed foods.  What do you think is the major problem with getting the message out to vegans in particular, and the public, in general, about the unhealthiness of oils?

Oil has this great reputation for being healthy (the oil industry has deep pockets) and people *love* it, so they don't necessarily want to believe the truth.

Do you have a recipe in your book that is a personal favorite or one you are most proud of?

            The queso cheese, for sure.

How do you think that those of us who are already (whole food, low fat) vegan can be the most effective in getting others to try this healthier lifestyle?
Leading by example, rather than preaching unsolicited. Take this weekend for example, my girlfriend was staying with us for a few days and noticed I never cooked with oil. She asked why, and I explained it casually like "well there is a lot of fat and calories in it, its like a candy bar in 1 tbsp." We talked a little more about it, and I could tell she found it fascinating. Anyway, she went home on Monday and Tuesday morning emailed me saying she was a convert. She looked at the nutrition label on her evoo when got came home and it shocked her. She threw it out and that was it. Just like that, her diet has changed.
What has been the most exciting aspect of being a published author?

It's surreal to walk into a bookstore and see your book. I think that is when it finally felt real to me. Like I did write a book.

And lastly, if you could spend an hour with anyone in history, who would you choose and why?

Einstein, or Charles Darwin. They're both pretty much God to me. I'd love to be around that kind of brilliance and just watch them...do.

Thanks for all of your great work.
Sue 


Quick Queso (makes 1 cup) - It's okay to go at this sauce with a spoon. I won't judge.
1 cup non-dairy milk (such as fat-free soymilk)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp granulated onion powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder or cayenne (optional)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often until thick. Serve immediately.
Note: Gluten-free flours or blends may be substituted, such as chickpea flour. Also, add a 1 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes with green chilies for a Mexican Queso twist.



I whipped up Lindsay's queso and I have to say......DELICIOUS!  I can see so many possibilities for this recipe.  It's a great idea to add the tomatoes, and I will definitely be trying that.  I enjoyed the queso as a dip for some veggies and it went great with my flaxers (pictured above) and I even spread some inside of a pita pocket and simply stuffed with raw spinach....yum!  One could use this as a base for a sauce over pasta or other grain, and as a sauce for a veggie casserole.  The possibilities are endless. 

I'm looking forward to getting my copy of Lindsay's book and am anxious to try some of her other recipes.

Thank you again, Lindsay, for the opportunity to interview you and for the wonderful recipe! See more information on Lindsay's book at Amazon:  www.tinyurl.com/4c8beet

By the way, what a wonderful suggestion on approaching change for others....leading by example and not preaching.  I too have found success by creating a bit of curiousity and allowing others to ask rather than force my opinions onto them.  It is difficult, especially when we are so enthusiastic about our changes, but enthusiasm can quickly be perceived as just plain obnoxious pushiness....I will take your advice to heart, Lindsay.

Sue, changing and allowing others the space to do the same, in Ohio

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mastery, Personal Achievement and Alfredo

I was trying to catch up on the various blogs I follow and happened upon one of Lori Painter's on Mastery.  (Lori's blog is:  http://www.inspire2act.blogspot.com/). She had an interesting take on the subject of mastery.  The premise is very simple (aren't the very best things usually?).  It goes something like if you spend an hour a day, 6 days a week working on developing a skill, or learning all you can about a particular area, etc., then in one year's time you would have the equivalent of an Associate's degree, in two years, a Bachelor's, in 3 and Master's and in 4 the equivalent of a PhD.  Now, of course, she cautions, you might have to actually be coached by someone or attend an educational program, but the point is, you could attain a certain level of MASTERY, simply by putting the time in.

This concept is not rocket science and even Nike adopted as their slogan, the to-the-point instruction, Just Do It, but there is real power in those simple words.

I thought about how much time I have put in to the mastery of nutrition, health, vegan cooking, raw food recipes, etc., over the last year or so and I think, yes, I've easily averaged the required 24 hours per month.  I thought about how much more confidence and certainty I have in this field now, and although I know I have as far to go as I have come, in fact, much farther, it still feels good to have come this far.

Then I thought about the times in my life when my health and proper nutrition was NOT at the forefront of my thinking and focus....the grab something quick to eat days....the mindless finish-the-entire-bag-of-m&m's days.  I was simply out-of-touch and not putting in my 'time' to develop myself.  How silly to put ourselves at the very bottom of the list, and sometimes not even on the list at all.  It is only through being our best and being our authentic self (a concept I am coming to embrace wholeheartedly), that we can attain our goals, help others and truly be there to make a positive difference in this life.

Also, in that simple concept, is the answer to our goals that have remained elusive....we just need to put the time in.  Period.  If you are present and focusing on whatever goal, you are going to progress...you aren't going to just stagnate over and over again for an hour a day, 6 days a week.  You WILL move forward! 

I think too, we always have to realize, that progress as it occurs, may not be obvious.  In horse training, we understand that horses don't learn perfectly, they don't progress perfectly; this is also true with humans.  But like a single black stone in a sea of white pearls that we can't take our focus from, or a sore spot in the mouth that the tongue constantly wants to play with, we are sometimes drawn more to the 'failures' or things that don't go quite right.  But it is usually when things are NOT going perfectly, that change is on the horizon.  Within every moment that is not going along smoothly, is the potential for smoothness, and vice versa!  It's up to us to shift the focus over to the side of progress.  That famous journey of 1,000 miles does indeed begin with a single step and the progress along the journey is made, just one step at a time.  We always want the next step, which is good and keeps us driven, but when the focus is truly on the step we are in, we get the joy of that mini-accomplishment too.

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I'm back to trying new recipes each week, and have selected the next few that I am going to prepare from Chef A.J.'s book "Unprocessed".  I really am enjoying that book and do recommend it.  I have a recipe from Lindsay Nixon's new book, The Happy Herbivore, and an interview with her, and I hope to get that done this weekend, so I can send it out on the blogosphere.

In the meantime, I wanted to try something I thought my husband would like, and he loves fettucine alfredo, so I thought I would make up Creamy Cashew Fettucine with Mushrooms and Peas from Robin Robertson's book,  1,000 Vegan Recipes, www.tinyurl.com/6284ukm .  Alfredo sauce...oommmm...pounded away some of that in my day.  Just the thought of all that cream, butter and cheese, now sounds like death on a platter.

Creamy Cashew Fettucine

1 T olive oil (I omitted)
4 med., shallots,minced
12 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C dry sherry (I omitted)
1 C  baby peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz fettucine
3 C Creamy Cashew Sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 C finely chopped roasted unsalted cashews (I used raw)
1/4 C dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1 T minced fresh parsley (garnish)

In large skillet heat the oil over med heat (I used water).  Cook shallots until soft, about 5 mins.  Add mushrooms and cook til soft, about 4 mins.  Add sherry and cook stirring, 1 min. to cook off alcohol.  (I did add some water with some sweetener in it to replace this as I don't use alcohol).  Remove from heat, stir in peas, season with s/p to taste, set aside. 

Cook fettucine in boiling water til al dente, about 10 mins.  Drain well and return to pot.  Add mushroom and pea mixture along with cashew sauce.  Mix gently to combine, then transfer to baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with cashews and bread crumbs.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins (375 oven) and then uncover and bake 10 more mins to brown top.  Sprinkle with parsley.

 Creamy Cashew Sauce
1C raw cashews
2 T nutritional yeast
2 C unswt. soy milk (I used almond milk)
salt
cayenne

In blender process cashews to a fine powder.  Add yeast and 1.5 C of milk.  Blend til smooth.  Season to taste.
Transfer to med. saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Stir sauce til hot, about 5 mins.  Add more of the milk if thinner sauce is desired.


While eating this last night, I immediately thought of the things I wanted to change.  As I was making up the sauce, I loved how creamy it was looking and thought, oh....this is going to just be awesome.  Well, it seemed very dry to me and lost the creaminess in the baking process.  I'm going to play with it a bit, and maybe double the recipe and maybe add some tofu, just play and see if I can keep the creaminess.  Now, my husband surprised me by saying that I should leave it just as it is, that he really like it.  I'm so proud of him and how much he is trying to eat well.  He even made suggestions of other veggies that could be added to this, broccoli and cauliflower being his choices.  Nothing says "I love you" like a spouse that will get behind you on a program and even contribute.  If you've read my earlier posts, you know it wasn't always this way, so change (AND PROGRESS!!!!), do happen, one recipe at a time.

{Note:  If you are vegan or trying to be, you simply must get one of Robin Robertson's books.  I have had several of hers from the library, and decided on Vegan Planet, and 1,000 Vegan Recipes as two I had to own.  Now, the recipes do have oil, salt and sometimes sugar, and therefore substitutions need to be made, but there have been many times when I've just opened the 1,000 recipes book and flipped around and gotten great inspiration for dishes to prepare.  Great books for sure.  Check your library listings for titles by her and others....gotta love the library!}

Sue, working on an Associate's Degree in Better Living, in Ohio

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chinese Astrology, Vernal Equinox, New Traditions

This is the Year of the Rabbit or Hare.  I love Chinese Astrology and occasionally will have a Chinese New Year celebration with my family.  Since my youngest son is a rabbit, I thought this year we especially needed to celebrate; these Chinese astrological years come around only once in 12 years; one is going to be lucky to even have the opportunity to celebrate one's own sign 7 or 8 times in a lifetime.
This year we celebrated on the vernal equinox, another important date in my line of thinking.  I don't really celebrate the major traditional holidays in my heart as I don't share many of the belief systems they are founded on and some holidays I think are simply manipulations by commericialism (see my post on Valentine's Day).  {But, I do love to put up a few Xmas decorations, hypocrisy aside}.

No, the days of the years that resonate most closely with my inner being are the solstices and the equinoxes.  I feel the most grounded and yet, at the same time, the most cosmically connected on these days that signal the magical transitions of the seasons.

So, I was thrilled when my family could come out on the vernal equinox and to have some members in the family that are willing to indulge my ideas of how to celebrate.

My oldest son brought his 3 roommates, and my youngest and his girlfriend were present, so I had 7 carnivores and was a little worried putting out a totally vegan meal (all vegan except some store-bought veggie egg rolls--which was of course the one thing my darling husband chose to comment on 'wow, these came out good'...<sigh>  he did enjoy the other foods though).  To my surprise and delight, most were happy with the food (except oldest son, who managed to fill up on brown rice and dessert....a meat, dairy, salt and sugar craver, how I worry about his health, but will work on that a little at a time). 

Our celebratory feast consisted of a simple stir fry (onions, broccoli, carrots, garlic, edamame, celery and mushrooms) over brown rice, pad thai (recipe to follow), spring rolls and peanut dipping sauce (recipes to follow) and for desert, mango tango, vegan brownies and fresh strawberries.


"A." attempts to master chopsticks.

I call this one "A. vs. Spring Roll" ---that spring roll didn't stand a chance.  (Note "C. "on right, deftly using the chopsticks---love an enthusiastic participator)

 I was also impressed with "A.'s" plate......now THAT's enthusiasm!!!  Pad Thai has fork in it.


There were crafts.....



My youngest "T." on left and willing participant "K." are both gifted origami-ists. 

We nibbled on dessert, and had more crafts....



Oldest son "T." served as origami crane consultant.

I asked everyone to place wishes inside their paper lanterns and we took our creations outside to burn them at the firepit, to allow our wishes' ashes to be carried up on the winds.....(no one even remotely insinuated this was corny....I suspect a few pyromaniacs were present....).




Pad Thai - from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet

12 oz fresh or dried rice noodles
2T plus 1 t peanut oil (I omitted)
8 oz extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2" wide strips (I used firm and cut into cubes)
2 T tamari or soy sauce
1/2 small red bell pepper cut into thin strips (I subbed mushrooms as my guys don't dig peppers)
4 scallions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 med. tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1T light brown sugar or sweetner (I used agave---I know, I know, it's processed--...I hardly ever use it)
2T rice vinegar
1/2 C fresh bean sprouts
1/4 C chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts (I toast raw ones in a dry fry pan)

1.  Prepare rice noodles.  If fresh, rinse under very hot water and place in large bowl, separating them into individual strands.  If dried, plunge into large pot of boiling water to soften, drain and place in large bowl.  Toss noodles with 1 t of peanut oil and set aside.  (NOTE:  I did use a very teeny amount of toasted sesame oil to coat noodles).
2.  Heat 1T of oil (I used water) and add tofu until brown, about 5 mins.  (Mine didn't brown, but I still left it in about 5 mins).  Add 1 T of tamari and stir to coat.  Transfer to platter and set aside.
3.  Heat remaining 1T of peanut oil over med. heat.  (I used water).  Add pepper, scallions and garlic and stir-fry til soft, about 5 mins.  Add the tomato, sugar, vinegar and 1T of tamari.  Cook for about 3 mins to blend flavors.  Add noodles and tofu and toss gently and heat through, about 5 mins.
4.  Divide among 4 individual plates, sprinkle with the bean sprouts and peanuts and serve at once.

I doubled this recipe and added some steamed broccoli per Robin's suggestion as a finishing touch in addition to the sprouts and peanuts.  This is an excellent dish, is great the next day for leftovers and was a big hit with my non-vegan family members. 

Spring Rolls and Peanut Dipping Sauce
These are from Averie's blog "Love Veggies and Yoga".  http://www.loveveggiesandyoga.com/ Averie is a wild woman, and I mean that with love and envy in my heart.  Beautiful with a zest for life, I do like to 'check in' on her blog fairly regularly and tap into that life force.  She does not always have the most healthy recipes, even she would admit that, but she does have some interesting ones on there, including a killer recipe for kale chips.  Her peanut dipping sauce did not disappoint (although I did have to log an extra few miles on the treadmill to offset it---high sugar content and also oil, so I wouldn't recommend this as a staple---it'll be another solstice or equinox before I treat myself to it again).

Spring Rolls:
Assemble fillings (carrots, peppers, squash, spring mix, or noodles, tofu, whatever you want).  Dunk wrapper (these aren't too hard to find, even the regular stores carry them now in the asian food aisle) into bowl of warm water for 15-20 seconds.  Place filling in center of wrapper, fold up bottom over it, then fold in sides and roll up.

Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1/3 C peanut butter
1/4 C maple syrup/agave blend
1/4C sesame oil (key ingredient says Averie)
1/4C apple Cider vinegar
1t-1T ginger powder (opt).
Shake up or whisk.  (Opt.:  add 1/2 orange- blend all in Vitamix)


This year of the Rabbit is said to be a placid year, one of peace and the return of diplomacy.  Money should be plentiful this year as well and there should be opportunity for leisure and an unhurried pace.
Sounds good to me.

Sue, hopeful in Ohio



Monday, March 7, 2011

Vegan Mafia, Manners, "Unprocessed" Adventure-Part 2

I was watching one of my favorite shows, The Amazing Race, last night and saw something odd....one of the contestants had a shirt on that said "Vegan Mafia".  Now, I get really excited whenever I see ANYthing vegan, or ANYone vegan, or ANY inkling of anything even remotely related to anyone who knew anyone who's cousin USED to be vegan.  (Just ask my poor long-suffering husband....everytime a Bryan Adams song comes on..."Honey, did you know Bryan Adams is vegan?"..."Yes, dear...I believe you have mentioned that before".  Natalie Portman comes on...in Star Wars, the Oscars, anywhere...."Honey, did you know Natalie Portman is vegan?".  "Yes, dear....I think you mentioned that about 150 times before"....you get the drift).  So natch, when I saw the t-shirt I sat up with a start...oh COOL....a vega.....wait...a...minute....mafia, what?

So today when I had a chance, I looked it up:  Vegan Mafia is defined in the Urban Dictionary as "militant vegans who will ostracize their vegan friends who stray from the fold".  Oh, I get it now.  Yep, I won't be ordering that t-shirt.

Speaking of dictionaries, I had a very interesting experience over the weekend.  My husband and I went to a party at his boss' house; I, of course, wanted to make a good impression this being my first meeting of these folks.  I brought a large platter of fresh veggies and also some black bean hummus thusly insuring I would have something to eat, as I never expect to be catered to at these sorts of things.  We were the first to arrive and soon upon getting there the hosts expressed their concern about what I was going to eat.  They made a very cute confession and told me that they didn't know what vegan was and had to look it up in the dictionary.  I was so touched by this....they went on to ask if I followed the true definition of vegan and didn't consume dairy...I said that's correct, no I don't eat dairy.  It just impressed me so much how the biggest concern these people had was not even remotely similar to the reactions I have gotten from so many others which border on an attack of my choices.  No, there was none of that here; only a concern that they would not be able to properly feed me.  (More on this evening in a later post when I talk about meeting their longhorn cattle....quite a wonderful experience too).

The evening made me think of manners and how startling it was to see GOOD manners in place.  What does this say about others in my life and where have our good manners gone?  I wonder how much better the world could be if we would take the care to put in our simple 'please' and 'thank you's and endeavor to show each other a bit of mannerly respect.  I suppose I can refine my manners as well and I've made a mental note to do just that....more of the 'be the change you wish to see' at work.
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"Unprocessed" Adventure - Part 2

I had some leftover spinach dip from my first endeavor into Chef A.J.'s book "Unprocessed" (I am cooking my way through her book, Julie/Julia style), so it only made sense to make her Disappearing Lasagna since she uses the dip as the filling.

Chef A.J.'s Disappearing Lasagna

2 boxes of no boil rice lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat)
6 C oil-free marinara sauce (I did a simple blend of tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano)

Filling:
1 box extra firm tofu OR 2 C cannellini beans, drained and rinsed  (I used both)
2 oz. fresh basil leaves
1 C pine nuts, raw cashews or hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic
1/4 C miso (I subb'ed Liquid Aminos)
1/4 C nutritional yeast
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/8 t red pepper flakes
2 pounds frozen chopped spinach or 1 pound kale (I used fresh)

4 oz can sliced olives, rinsed and drained (optional)
2 pounds sliced mushrooms
1 garlic clove (I think there is an omission in the recipe due to instructions, so inserted this here)
1/4 C tamari
1 large red onion (I used large yellow)

Faux Parmesan:
Grind raw cashews or almonds to nutritional yeast in a 2:1 ratio (i.e. 1 C nuts to 1/2 C nut. yeast) and 1 T of salt-free seasoning

Make the filling in a food processor adding tofu, basil, garlic, lemon juice, miso, nutritional yeast, nuts and red pepper flakes.  Puree til smooth.  Add drained spinach or kale and process again.

Saute chopped onion in 2 T water until translucent, about 8 mins, adding more water if needed.  Add garlic, mushrooms and tamari and saute until browned.  Taste mixture, adding more garlic/tamari as desired.  Cook until mushrooms appear to be glazed and no liquid left in pan.

Pour 3 C of sauce in lasagna pan. Place one layer of noodles (A.J. specifies no-cook noodles, but I find that all pasta will cook in the over as long as it is covered in the sauce) on top.  Cover noodles with half of tofu/spinach mix, then with half of mushroom mix.  Place another layer of noodles on top and add remaining halves of tofu and mush.  Place one more layer of noodles on top and smother evenly with remaining sauce.  Sprinkle olives on top of sauce and sprinkle with faux parmesan.  (I put black olives on top of half of the casserole for my husband and put thinly sliced red peppers on my half).

Bake uncovered 375 degrees for one hour.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Oh-My-Gawd.  This is superbly yummie.  Even my husband (non-vegan) said:  "Delicious".  Are you kidding me?  That is beyond amazing.  Now, I LOVE Rip Esselstyn's Raise the Roof Lasagna, but this is a serious contender.  Very uniquely flavored and my only complaint was that I had prepared too large of a salad and so was only able to eat one piece.  Yum.

(Note:  I have another idea for this filling.  I'll be adding chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms and using it to fill pasta shells, then have the tomato sauce over top.  It should make a nice vegan stuffed shell or manicotti dish).

Speaking of salad, I have FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY found a ranch dressing I can enjoy.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jennifer Cornbleet.  I picked up her book "Raw Food Made Easy" at Half-Priced Books. I 've only made a few things in there, but was so beyond thrilled to find something I could use to replace my beloved (and unhealthy) ranch.    Here is her recipe.

Mock Sour Cream and Chive Dip

1 C soaked raw cashews
1/2 C water
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t salt
2 T minced fresh chives or green onions
1 T basil (I subbed parsley)
1 T dill

Place nuts through salt in blender and process til smooth.  Add chives, basil and dill and pulse briefly to mix.  Chill at least 30 mins in frig. 
I wanted this to be a bit creamier so I added about half a block of silken tofu.  I did tweak the seasonings a bit and added a lot more dill----I love dill.  My husband doesn't like dill, so I made some for him without the dill and increased the garlic and onion powder.  He said 'I can live with it', so I'm going to play with the spices some more and see if I can ramp the flavor up a bit.  Still, it was yummy and I devoured it both as a dip for fresh veggies and straight on the salad.  It's been a long nearly 8 months with no ranch.


Sue, not in the mafia, vegan or otherwise, in Ohio


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rainy Days, Stress and My New "Unprocessed" Adventure

It's raining here in Ohio.  I mean serious, creeks flooding, roads closing, Canada Geese-swimming-in-the-driveway rain.  In my attempts to be a 'glass-half-full' kind of gal, I remind myself that just a couple of weeks ago I literally had to skate out to the barn to do my chores with so many layers of outerwear that I felt (and looked) like the Michellin man.  So I am trying to remain in a state of gratitude for the rain, realizing that it is serving its purpose too, to fill the water tables that will nourish the earth. 

Still....it's damn dreary.
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I've been giving thought of late to the concept of stress.  It's become such a buzz word, that I think we've become somewhat desensitized to just how powerful stress is.  We get stress from work, stress if we don't have work, stress from family drama, stress over if we are stressing....it's endless.  I know it affects our bodies and certainly our ability to cope in life, but I had no idea just how much until a trip to the E.R. last weekend gave me an 'in-your-face' moment of clarity.  I had been working one of our horses and began having visual disturbances--really bizarre patterns of flashing lights---my husband and I opted to go to the E.R.  The nurse practitioner there and the E.R. doc weren't totally willing to rule out a torn retina, but suspected ocular migraine, and so put me on some physical restrictions with strict orders to go see the ophthalmologist first thing Monday.  (Which I did--turned out to be an ocular migraine). 

While in the E.R., they kept taking my blood pressure.  Normally I run around 110/75 yet I was putting out numbers like 155/105, 150/95, crazy high for me.  Now, I didn't FEEL like I was under that much stress....I mean I was sitting there in the E.R., but my husband was there, and my son and his girlfriend had even come to offer their support, which touched me deeply, and I felt like I was pretty relaxed all things considered, yet here was my body clearly showing the measurable signs of what was really going on. 

I guess you can't fool your body.

I am putting 'stress reduction practice' as a priority on my list of things to do for self-improvement.  Yoga has to go back in (and as a serious main course, not the garnish status that it currently has in my fitness program), and time spent doing the beautiful soothing moves of my Tai Chi, as well as the simple act of consciously taking some deep breaths throughout the day.  Stress deserves its due.

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The Great "Unprocessed" Adventure

I just got Chef A.J.'s book "Unprocessed". http://tinyurl.com/5vrbscw .  I've been an admirer of Chef A.J. and her partner-in-kale, Julieanna Hever for quite some time and she is definitely one of my heros.  After reading the story of her life, I am now even more in awe; she has had much to overcome. 

While doing a quick scan of the recipes in her book, I decided I would do a "Julie/Julia" approach to the book.  (Julie-Julia refers to the book and movie (http://www.julieandjulia.com/) wherein Julie Powell undertook the monumental task of cooking her way through Julia Child's first cookbook.  It's a really fun movie if you haven't seen it (however, recipes are definitely NOT vegan...yikes, so much butter!).  Anyway, I follow A.J. on her FaceBook page and mentioned this idea and she said we might be able to do giveaways of her book here on the blog at some point, so watch for news of that.

I am going to skip around in the book as I make my way through the recipes and started with her Kale or Spinach Dip and her Fennel Salad.

Kale or Spinach Dip

(A.J. notes this is also the filling that is used in her lasagna)

1 box of extra firm water packed tofu OR 2 cans (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 oz fresh basil leaves
1 C pine nuts, raw cashews or hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
1/4 C low sodium miso
1/4 C of nutritional yeast
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/8 t red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 lbs. frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted, drained with all liquid squeezed out) OR 1 pound frozen kale (defrosted, drained, with liquid squeezed out)

Place all ingredients except spinach or kale in a food processor fitted with the S blade and process until smooth and creamy.  Add spinach or kale and process again until combined.  Place in hollowed out loaf of round sourdough bread for a spectacular presentation.




I tried a couple of different things with this recipe.  I was out of basil (who DOES have pine nuts in their kitchen but DOESN'T have basil???....that would be me.)  So, I subbed some parsley.  I am sure the basil would make a difference.  Also, I had a silken tofu slab that was nearing the expiration date, so I used that instead of the extra firm.  As, predicted, I knew this dip would come out more liquidy than with the firm tofu, so when I remake, will use the extra firm.  Also, I don't like miso at all; have tried a couple of different types and I just don't like it, so I subbed Bragg's aminos for that.  Again, I am sure it had an effect on the recipe.

This makes quite a bit of dip and I even halved the recipe.  I enjoyed it with some fresh veggies and was happily munching away and then decided to try adding the cannellini beans for kicks even though the recipe calls for either or, tofu or beans.  That gave it a different texture and flavor and was quite good on some 'flaxers' (http://sunnyhawklane.blogspot.com/2011/02/usda-part-2-bullies-and-flaxers.html) I had on hand.  (Note:  this would be a really fun dish to include for a St. Patrick's Day dinner; the green is gorgeous).

Since I have so much of this left-over and since I just happen to have some whole-wheat lasagna noodles on hand, I'm going to make a small pan of A.J.'s lasagna tonight, so will have a post on that soon.

Next up:

Fennel Salad
(Raw) - A.J. credits Ellen Greek with this recipe

2 bulbs of fennel
1 lemon
20 dates

Slice the fennel very thin into a bowl.  Keep the green top to decorate the salad.  Slice the dates and mix them with the fennel.  Pour the lemon juice over this and mix it well.  Serve cold or room temp.

I just used a portion of one fennel bulb and adjusted the other ingredient amounts accordingly.

I was amazed at this salad.  There are so many flavor variations in this between the anise flavor of the fennel, the tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the dates that it is like a taste kaleidoscope in the mouth. While this is not something I would want to eat a huge serving of, it was light, lovely and very unique.  I definitely will be preparing it again.





Sue, de-stressing in Ohio